Plan for Derived XML Registry
By Rex Brooks
For XML Community of Practice Meeting
Plan for Derived XML Registry
Introduction: Humanmarkup.org, Inc. in collaboration with Plumtree Software Inc. plans to demonstrate to the XML Community of Practice practical methodologies to assemble or populate an XML-based Registry of XML-based, or XML-related documents, applications and standards taken from the Firstgov.gov website. We will show how such a population can be searched through a WSRP Web Crawler Portlet on a Public Service WSRP Portal that can facilitate the identification of relevant standards through a generic web browser interface.
From that population we will generate a number of reports, such as identifying those documents which are or use XSDs, which are or use XSD-based or –related structured information data standards. We will then demonstrate how ontologically-organized searches can identify useful patterns based on the elements, attributes, attributeGroups, simpleTypes and complexTypes, etc., as well as identifying terms which occur in multiple standards schema for comparing and contrasting, and forming the basis for discussion on the inevitable issue of how best to recommend methods for harmonizing, reconciling, or separating definitions and datatypes for these terms by namespace for correct usage.
No doubt, this audience hardly needs reminding why open XML-based domain-specific standards are valuable for the Governmental Agency community, but we want to connect a wider viewpoint in this demonstration, so this short paper and presentation can service as a prologue to the demonstration we hope to schedule for March.
Problem Statement: The value of open standards has been recognized widely within the Federal Governmental Agencies Community for the usually noted reasons of reducing duplicated and/or overlapping IT efforts, allowing a variety IT systems integration and rendering application data interoperable across agencies and platforms, all of which will realize the kind of ROI which in governmental terms means savings of taxpayer monies. However, due to a sometimes bewildering proliferation of standards, many of which appear to be overlapping or duplicated themselves, a similar proliferation of domain or agency-specific adoptions of, often with modifications to, various XML-based standards has already taken place even before the notions inherent in the Federal (FEA) Architecture have taken hold, or the full government-wide Reference Models completed.
Usual Suspects Solution: Like a standard gauge for railroads in the late 19th Century, standards make the products of businesses within industries more or less interoperable and that provides efficiency, usability and lower costs. In the last five years, as IT has come to the fore, XML has emerged as the only viable path to salvage the vital and necessary remaining value from the legacy systems whose lifecycles are nearing their endpoints while allowing for a means to carry the data and information forward from of dawn of the digital information age into the future of quantum computing. However, while improvements continue, even as the follow-on problems are encountered, we see no showstoppers on the horizon, and consequently, we advise remaining on course though we also advise remaining vigilant while attending to the problems as they present themselves.
However, as the recent, compelling example of the FBI’s attempt to build a Virtual Case File System as part of their ambitious Trilogy computer system upgrade program, painfully illustrates, there are pitfalls in every choice, whether choosing to build a government-specific single vendor or service-provider solution or choosing an XML-based, open standards-optimized solution. The very enticing idea of choosing a single major vendor or IT integration service or an open standards approach assuming that lack of royalty dependence confers automatically appropriate functionality, the choice most likely to result in disaster can likely be found in direct proportion to how easy it seems to be for the decision-makers. This makes it extremely important for the professional community within the overall governmental agency community to carefully educate the decision makers.
If we may be allowed to draw an analogy from the entertainment domain, we are very much in the role of the Wile E. Coyote character chasing the Roadrunner character off a cliff, having failed to notice how the smart little bird has stopped just short of the edge. Unlike the cartoon, WE can redraw the sequence, provided we can be nimble and adroit enough. Yet, like the animation metaphor being used here, the process is not without its own challenges.
And, like animation, and other special effects in film and video, the very computer that has made such incredible advancements possible is the main source of both problem and solution.
Whichever choice is made, initially the cost is great when dealing with the products of technological development. That is always a fact of life, even though we want to plan a flexible solution that can grow into the future. Yet, the cost drops quickly over time, as power increases.
Regardless, cutting edge equipment and solutions remain the costliest and the most risky, at least in the short term. However, as both our experience and the technology increase apace, the cost and risk comes down as our ability to make wiser choices also increases, once the commitment has been made. So, we are behooved to make the commitment, accept the challenge to remain on the learning curve in the expectation that we will achieve our goals sooner rather than later by solving the inevitable challenges along the road sooner rather than later, as well. So must we also challenge ourselves to test our assumptions ruthlesslessly in order to remove or improve inadequate or insufficient measures
(Note: what this demonstration is intended to provide for this community is a tool with which to persuade those decision-makers that if we are to have the interoperability we covet, we must arrange it so that the large vendors understand that their profits depend less on a monolithic solution and more on the ease of interoperability of their products with the products of all other vendors and that their products must henceforward deliver better performance, not smoother marketing and more clever assurances.)
Generalities Aside: Enough progress and commitment has been made for this solution through the Federal Enterprise Architecture and the previous legislative and executive mandates that we need not make the case for adoption, per se, but for smarter adoption, and an XML Registry is the wisest path for smarter adoption.
Nuts and Bolts: As the full paper and presentation will detail, there is a laundry list of legislation and executive mandates, specifically generated out of the Office of Management and Budget which must be accounted by each agency and department in regard to all IT investments. This directly impacts which standards will be most used, and, therefore, which standards will be the likeliest candidates for widespread reuse throughout the government. Our demonstration is aimed at revealing this, as well as suggesting that more focused work needs to be done through the CIO Council and the Chief Architects Forum in order to make this ongoing process more effective and less confusing.
Show and Tell: Because our research has shown that simply identifying means by which an XML Registry can aid agencies and departments in fulfilling their budgeting and review tasks in building IT investment plans, we will take this process a step further. Simply discovering standards and terms is a start, but connecting it to practical problems seems like a valuable effort, especially given the context of making sense out of what can be a confusing welter of information standards and practices. So we will show some ways in which the utility of such a Registry can be applied.
We will demonstrate HOW seemingly contradictory requirements for making a sound Business Case that also follows both the FEA Reference Models and the Lines of Business (LOB) Analysis that the OMB has identified as being required for certain recurring activities government-wide, actually CAN be done while remaining within the single page summary allotted for it... or we will show how it can be justified or necessary to expand that a bit.
Summary: This short paper was meant to be brief and touch upon the highpoints we want to make in the equally short presentation. The intent is to give an idea of where we will take the broader presentation and paper. So, in short, we want to make practical sense out of the XML Standards in use on Firstgov.gov and tie that to using XML Standards through a Registry to achieve the mandated goals and objectives of E-Government.